It seems like only yesterday that I was on stage receiving my MBA diploma and ready to conquer the world. Well, really I was just trying to get a job first. Times were different in the ’80s and ’90s. Tuition had yet to skyrocket, and an MBA degree was a novel segue to Wall Street and consulting.
Today it is a tad different. As previously reported, MBA students are typically leaving their two year program with almost $200,000 in debt.
I know you’re not feeling sorry for the kid who went to Yale or Dartmouth, but the next level down it is much more difficult to separate yourself from the crowd. Weighing in on the matter is 88 year old Warren Buffett, who enjoys passing on his knowledge to the youth of America. Remember, he still lives in his circa 1970’s house in Omaha, NE. “Establishing good habits — even the little ones, like saying “please” and “thank you” — is a major key to success,” notes Buffett. I must have slept through Humility 101 my first year.
Buffet dug into his parable treasure chest at a speech at the University of Florida, where he propositioned students to select the one person in their MBA class that, if they could, they would receive 10% of that student’s earnings for the rest of their life.
I’m guessing you already figured out that Buffett’s advice was not to select the student with the highest IQ. “There’s nothing wrong with getting the highest grades in the class, but that isn’t going to be the quality that sets apart a big winner from the rest of the pack,” said Buffett.
Okay, so what are the qualities that will make one stand out in the crowd? Buffett suggests, “You’d probably pick the person who has leadership qualities, who is able to get others to carry out their interests. That would be the person who is generous, honest and gave credit to other people for their own ideas.”
One will notice that Buffett places little emphasis on intellect, but preferring what one would simply call a “nice person.” “Essentially, integrity — honesty, virtue and morality — can make or break you in the professional world. And if you choose not to make it a priority, you risk getting stuck with a reputation for deceit,” says Buffett. I’m gonna guess that Buffett didn’t do very well on the SAT’s. Wait, did they have the SAT when he was in high school?
The big takeaway here is that Buffett values integrity first, with everything else to follow. His advice to the newly minted MBA’s was pretty straightforward. Don’t be someone who turns off other people. Simple enough. If you want to know what the gestalt of Buffet’s definition of integrity is, it includes the following:
- Fulfill your promises
- Be honest
- Be trustworthy
- Give credit where credit is due
- Be mindful and emotionally intuitive
- Manifest humility
- Be willing to admit you’re wrong
- Offer help when it’s needed
- Treat others with respect
- Be charitable
- Be patient
Those of you with intelligence, ambition, or both, have a head start on separating yourself from the pack. However, according to Buffett and many others, the list above that includes humility and honesty, will be more critical to your success.